Last week, I shared an overview of my journey to find my career purpose to help demonstrate the importance of relentlessly following your leads and their associated emotions. This week, I will dive into the second half of this story, which is the more specific and practical part of how I narrowed down those choices.
At the point in my story where I left off last week, I had identified that I enjoyed teaching leadership skills as well as mentoring and coaching people along their journeys. I wanted to go into a field that focused on these areas but didn’t know what it was called or how could I search for related jobs. This brings me to tip #1: connect with as many people in any related position that you can find, describe your passion, and ask them what kind of keywords you should be searching for or what jobs exist in this area. Through this process, I was able to identify a few options: human capital consulting, a position within the talent development group of an HR department for a larger company or starting my own business.
Narrowing the options for precisely what you want to do takes a lot of investigating, trial and error, and learning by doing. I started by looking into human capital consulting, but after speaking to people currently in those roles about what it was like, and interviewing with a consulting firm, I quickly realized I neither had the energy level it would take to travel that much, nor the desire to work in such a structured environment. I wanted to have more freedom: the freedom to pick the clients I worked with, the freedom to identify what their challenges were and how to solve them, and the freedom to work in the way I wanted to work. I was never made for a “9 to 5 desk job.” I always felt chained to my desk, and I dreaded coming to that same desk, in the same room, with the same people, for the same hours… day after day after day. I do not thrive on structure or routine. I thrive in variety and flexibility, and being an entrepreneur allows me to set my own schedule allows me to work in the environment in which I thrive the most.
A great way to identify what kind of environment in which you thrive brings me to tip #2: write out in extremely specific detail what a “day in the life” looks like for you in your perfect job. You may not know all the pieces yet, but work with what you do know. When forced to think about it in this way, I pictured myself working in a home office on the phone with my own clients, not in an office executing tasks that were given to me.
Now that I knew I didn’t want to work in human capital consulting, I began investigating talent development jobs within larger companies. This brings me to tip #3: print out as many job descriptions as you can find in any related position, grab a writing utensil, and mark up what you are attracted to (and repelled by) in each of these descriptions. My takeaway from reading these descriptions at the time was that, perhaps because it was such a new field, it really wasn’t well-understand what it took to be successful, or how to measure that success. I got the feeling that I would be set up for a lot of frustration if I were to take one of these jobs, so I knew this wasn’t the right path for me.
When I put all of this information together, a few insights emerged: I wanted to develop others, but in my own way: with a lot of flexibility in how I did it, what hours I worked, where I worked, who I worked with, and what topics I taught. The only lead I had left was modeling after the closest version of this job that I could find: a mentor of mine that I mentioned in my last blog post who had started his own facilitation and coaching business. This was my strongest lead, and after much consideration, I decided to give it a try. I work with a lot of new business owners who think they have to have their entire business figured out before they launch, but you’ll never have perfect information. You have to just act on what you do know, a reality which leads us to tip #4: the path you choose and the need you will fulfill in the world will become clearer as you live it, not before you start down the path.
The final step in the process to living my career purpose was that I needed to take a half-time job while I was building the business in the other half of my time, which leads me to tip #5: remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a stepping stone to get you to the job of your dreams. I would encourage everyone to think creatively about how to fit the pieces together along the path rather than focusing on a black-and-white or “this or nothing” kind of thinking. The path to your dream career is not linear – there are twists, turns, disappointments, growth spikes, curve balls, and all kinds of other messy pieces – because that’s life. All you need to focus on is momentum: keep your focus on that dream, relentlessly follow any leads you have, and your path will emerge.
I hope this two-part story has been helpful for you to move along the path to finding your career purpose! Please share thoughts or questions you have in the comments, and if I can help you on your journey, don’t hesitate to set up time to chat.